The Herons of Elmwood
Warm and still is the summer night,
As here by the river’s brink I wander;
White overhead are the stars, and white
The glimmering lamps on the hill-side yonder.
Silent are all the sounds of day;
Nothing I hear but the chirp of crickets,
And the cry of the herons winging their way
O’er the poet’s house in the Elmwood thickets.
Call to him, herons, as slowly you pass
To your roosts in the haunts of the exiled thrushes;
Sing him the song of the green morass,
And the tides that water the reeds and rushes.
Sing him the mystical song of the hern,
And the secret that baffles our utmost seeking;
For only a sound of lament we discern,
And cannot interpret the words you are speaking.
Sing of the air, and the wild delight
Of wings that uplift and winds that uphold you,
The joy of freedom, the rapture of flight
Through the drift of the floating mists that enfold you;
Of the landscape lying so far below,
With its towns, and rivers, and desert places;
And the splendor of light above, and the glow
Of the limitless, blue, ethereal spaces.
Ask him if songs of the Troubadours,
Or of Minnesingers in old black-letter,
Sound in his ears more sweet than yours,
And if yours are not sweeter and wilder and better.
Sing to him, say to him, here at his gate,
Where the boughs of the stately elms are meeting,
Some one hath lingered to meditate,
And send him unseen this friendly greeting;
That many another hath done the same
Though not by a sound was the silence broken;
The surest pledge of a deathless name
Is the silent homage of thoughts unspoken.